Dark, small, withered, my mother’s fingers curve around the half onion. With her other hand she wields her knife and dices the onion into bits so small they rival the garlic at the edge of the cutting board. I hover by her shoulder and ask what I can do.
“You?” she says, as if I have never stood here before, never watched and learned. In a syllable, I’m small.
She asks me to wash and peel the five-pound bag of potatoes. It’s a glum sort of work, running your hands over the eyes and plucking them out. I do this without looking and watch her instead. Her body is bones and angles. She wears her hair tucked behind one ear, short as a boy’s. She finishes the onions and starts on dough. Flour, water, carom seeds. She kneads with vigor, rolls with strength. She is not graceful, but on these days she dances to music that isn’t there, embodies a sound with the stretch of her body and the movement of her hands.
Mom insists I tie up my long hair before I lose it all in the food. Her voice is harsh, sarcastic. Some women sing like songbirds; my mother is the raven. These are the only nights she relishes in cooking.